Curse Your Branches

Our Music Minister, Cliff Thompson, penned a very well written reflection of God, Church, and Music. I enjoyed it. I think you will too. Cliff is essentially taking time to describe why he’s grateful for Saint Paul’s. And I am very grateful for Cliff

“I was Seattle this week. This normally makes people my age think about Nirvana and Pearl Jam (which is now classic rock…I feel oldish) It pushes me in a slightly different direction. Pedro the Lion. Let me explain.

From my perspective as a teenager, “Christian” music absolutely stank. It was terrible. Awful. No matter how hard I tried to embrace Michael W. Smith… I just couldn’t do it. This ridiculous battle ensued between secular and sacred. Well intentioned believers tried to create some ridiculous version of rock/metal/rap that was just embarrassing. For complete details see the work of Stryper and D.C. Talk.

It wasn’t long before people my age came into their own and began to change things. A little record label named Tooth and Nail began promoting bands like Starflyer 59, Morella’s Forest, and Sixpence None the Richer. Things changed…for the better. Suddenly there were Christians who were considered legitimate artist right alongside everyone else. You had to be into independent music to see it but they were there.

At the top of the heap was a little band named Pedro the Lion. Pedro was fueled by a guy from the Seattle area named Dave Bazan. He’s the son of an Assembly of God music minister who expressed a deep passion for the message of the Gospel but questioned almost everything that came along side it in church “culture”. They were different…very different. There was no tinkly keyboard. The songs were often dark and punched you in the gut. In the song The Secret of an Easy Yoke, Bazan describes the experience of being a seeker visiting a new church. He penned the lines:

“Could someone please tell me the story of sinners ransomed from the fall?
I still have never seen You…and some days I don’t love You at all”

It was not exactly Amy Grant. It was honest and moving. Dave never shied away from any topic and was never scared to admit doubt. It was, in many ways, the narrative of my early adult life. Dave and I are the same age. I was learning to play and write music as I was listening to him evolve. Dave was, to me, what Dylan is to my hippie father in law.  I identified with Dave until I couldn’t any more. See, Dave went from expressing Jeremiah like faithfulness in the midst of confusion to letting the world dictate his perspective. The erosion of his faith began to dominate his music. It all came to a head in the album Curse Your Branches. Here Dave narrates how he’s “broken up” with God. He writes:

“Did you make us tremble so we would tell the tale? Did you push is when we fell?”

How does a guy like that find himself embracing agnosticism? I believe it was a disconnect with God’s people and service through the church. It’s scary how easily this can happen. We’re all busy. We’re all distracted. One missed Sunday turns into 20. It’s just a cracker and fermented grape juice. It’s optional. Isn’t it?…… Or is it that, if you miss Church, Community, and Communion, something in you starts to die?

I don’t believe God is done with Dave Bazan. Dave doesn’t realize that yet. I just believe he lost connection with God because he lost connection with the the church community and Communion with the Lord at his Table. There is true life in communion with others and Communion with the Lord. He didn’t see how fellow Christians and the Church are necessary to maintain a healthy relationship with God. When that happens other things creep in. That’s why I’m thankful for and for St. Paul’s.

God’s peace,